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Weather Veins

Yesterday, I placed an order for something I've wanted for awhile and two things came in that contribute greatly to my physical comfort:

My nicer pair of shoes came back from Mephisto's resole program. This is the same pair of shoes that have been with me for many years as my main pair of shoes, going on everything from hikes in the woods to the more casual of my going to opera. They've been repaired twice before by local shoe repair places.. I will probably have them for many years to come (although I've ordered another pair that I intend to keep safer from the cats for fancier occasions). As I've grown older I've cared more about shoes - the arches of my feet have been hurting since I sent those in for resoling, and this morning's walk to work was a pleasant reminder that my feet don't have to hurt.

My huge-mongous new computer bag came in yesterday. It's actually a X-Large messenger bag (from Timbuk2), and isn't designed for laptopis - there are a lot of pockets, but they're designed to be waterproof rather than accessible, and it doesn't have a centre extra-padded region so I'm using the removable liner from my old computer bag. On the upside, it wears closer to my body (to the extent that I would feel comfortable riding a bike with it), and it weighs very little (it still feels tough though). All of this feels a lot kinder on my back - limited testing shows that I can carry both my OLPC and my main laptop in it and it is still more comfortable and feels lighter than my old bag. I probably should've bought one of these years ago.

I ordered a new Windows computer for playing the occasional games and doing tablet sketching on windows - my older windows laptop was getting a bit slow and I'd like to be able to play a few games for which it was too slow, like Portal. It's nice how much computer one can get for very little money - windows computers are like appliances and so they're not worth spending time assembling or geeking out over components, but $1100 for a reasonably high-end system with a 24" LCD is pretty good (HP's Academic-Personal Discount helped considerably though). I guess if it had been much more I wouldn't've been interested in it given that all it's for is games and tablet stuff.

「The Heirs of Mohammad」 is turning out to be a really good book. I'd hesitate to call Mohammad a good guy given that I don't approve of some of his morals (keeping multiple wives, reasons for conquest, power politics), but as portrayed he seemed very human, not horribly puritan, and a generally good and intelligent leader. The first half of the book describes his life and near the end of that part sets the stage for some of the divisions that grew into the Sunni/Shi'a split - the second half (which I am about halfway through) describes the varied leaders directly after him, which will presumably build towards the divide at some point. The book is good at providing some of the perspective of the times it describes. I have very mixed feelings about Caliph Omar - his austerity, dislike of pomp, and rigourous stomping on political corruption are very respectable, although I worry that this austerity might have taken an unhealthy form. I don't know if that's more of an issue with the austerity he was described with or an issue with Austerity in general. Mohammad as depicted in the book could not plausibly have been comfortable with Taliban-style rule, but Omar may have been, at least were the Taliban as pure as they portray themselves to be. The book does nothing to dispel my impression that most great prophets of various faiths were likely mildly epileptic and that revelation was in fact mental illness.

I am fasinated with lawgivers. It would be an awesome task to be in such a position with such a responsibility. In modern times we have such a varied and deep body of literature to inform the task, from the collected concepts of Islam, various criminal codes, and the like, to understanding of social psychology, game theory, and the various philosophies.

Strange idea: connect computer-aging-of-faces algorithms and what-would-it-look-like-if-they-had-a-child algorithms...

Pittsburgh is a good city for trying to imagine what the landscape would be like untouched by our species.

Anyone who could manage to talk like this would be my hero for the week.

I never expected the Iranian elections to be as fascinating as this, with all sorts of power players entering the field. It reminds me of Gore v. BushJr in that it exposes some rough areas of their constitutional system, although more dramatically. I don't expect Mousavi to win in the end (even as I hope he does, just as I had hoped to see Khatami win before he dropped out), but the tensions in their society make its broad shape all the more visible, particularly to those who had oversimplistic ideas about Iran (elections for the presidency of Syria, for example and by contrast, is a completely boring topic - whether Ahmadinejad's reelection was fraudulent, bullied, or fair, someone like Khatami or Rafsanjani having been elected shows that the results are not always known (note that I do not and would not endorse Rafsanjani under most circumstances in their system)). One distant possibility which would be very surprising would be to have Rafsanjani convince the rest of the Council of Leadership to remove the Supreme Leader - this would exercise a power that the council has which has never been exercised, and we know that Rafsanjani has called a meeting of that council since the election result mess began.

I believe Pensacola Christian College represents much of what I don't like about the United States. I am glad they are not accredited, but very disappointed that they exist. I did find an article which expresses why I, as a moderate (or at least cautious) socialist, still have some respect for John McCain (and to an extent his daughter Meghan McCain) - despite the broad gap over issues, I believe McCain, over his career, has been more of an honest and respectable statesman than most politicians (making him stand even further out in the current atmosphere of the Republican Party). The recent campaign did not show him at his best (and I think we got the president out of the deal), and I think we got the better president out of the deal, but I still like him.

Someone pointed me recently at this. It would be amusing and introduce much drama to use (or have used) this form liberally.

The Gates Centre preparations continue - in a little over a month I'm responsible for a machine room migration and to a much lesser degree a lab migration. The upper floors are a bit more developed than they were for the clandestine tour during last Carnival...

New Gates Centre gallery here

Compare with old clandestine gallery here.

Mental state continues to be rather lousy - sleeping a lot more helps a bit.